I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection as I prepare for my last few months in Korea. Prior to moving here, I was dealing with an overwhelming amount of grief, confusion and instability. All in the span of six(ish) months, my brother and grandmother passed away, I ended an extremely toxic relationship and became unemployed. I was mentallly, physically and emotionally drained.
As one who generally chooses to keep my heart toward the sun, I used this newfound freedom and confusion as an opportunity to 1.) figure it out and 2.) chase a dream.
I remember it well: I was sitting on my couch in a meditation-like daze listening to Phantogram, one of my favorite bands, and suddenly thought, “Now is the time.” I picked up my laptop and began browsing Google for travel bloggers who had been living and working abroad. I spent hours re-living their magical moments through photographs and started getting butterflies in my stomach.
“I can do this,” I thought. So I did.
Moving to Korea has completely and utterly turned me inside out, upside down and back around. It has encouraged me, strengthened me, made me cry and sent me to hysterics. I’ve had some incredible experiences and some downright horrible experiences in this country. Although sometimes I find it extremely difficult to live in Korea, it’s healed me in a way I never thought imaginable – for which I am grateful. Here are some of my favorite lessons learned along the way:
1. It’s Okay to Fail
I’m not sure if this counts as something I learned in the months leading up to Korea so much as I have here, but I think it’s worth a mention. One of the main reasons I consider failure to be so magnificent is because it teaches some of life’s most valuable lessons: gumption, humility and, in my case, strengthen’s one’s tenacity.
There have been plenty of moments where I’ve failed. Committing cultural faux-pas, making mistakes at work, mismanaging funds from time to time – the list goes on. But you know what? So does life! In the wise words of Jerry Garcia, “just keep truckin’ on.”
2. Self Love is Important
For most of my early adulthood, I had a hard time loving myself. I am my biggest critic and tend to be far too harsh. However, one day in Korea I looked in the mirror and decided to take life by the horns. I started being kinder to myself, which eventually led to me being a happier and healthier person. I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds and met the man of my dreams as a result!
3. I Can Move Mountains
If I can overcome the pain I felt and open myself back up to all of these incredible experiences, I truly believe that I can do anything. I have amazed myself with my strength and courage, which are characteristics I never really credited myself for. I’ve traveled solo for the first time, attempted (and sort of failed) at learning the Korean language super well, and have followed through with my personal goals. I’ve regained my self confidence and feel [somewhat] in control of my life again.
4. Patience is Attainable
Since I can remember, I’ve always been keen to speak my mind. I am an extremely passionate woman and do not hold back when it comes to stating my opinion. While Korea certainly tends to bring out the absolute worst aspect of this trait, I have also learned that it’s sometimes best to just keep my mouth closed.
There are many aspects of Korean culture that absolutely drive me up a wall, but instead of letting it affect me, I’m trying to learn to just shut my mouth (it’s difficult) – even when everyone else around me is on a Korea rant themselves. I’m going to go ahead and consider myself to be getting wiser with age, which would explain the two new gray hairs I found recently.
5. It’s Okay to Let Go
I still cannot get through a movie scene that includes several heroin references or shows individuals in comatose – and that’s totally okay. I can however, choose to accept that and move forward. I don’t feel as many extreme waves of sadness related to my past since I’ve learned to focus on my strengths and focus on the future. I feel as though I would not have been able to accomplish this goal as successfully – or at all – had I stayed in America.
While far too often I’ve claimed this country to be an obnoxiously stressful place to live, it has ironically become a safe haven and a place that enabled me to grow. In my final months, I will refocus my energy on the overwhelming amount of positives that I can associate with living here rather than allow myself to get lost in the negativity. So, cheers to you Korea – thanks for the love!
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild